by James Stefanile, ABR, GRI, SRES, QSC, gCertified, REALTOR/Salesperson, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New Jersey Properties, Montclair Office
This installment may seem to veer a little from real estate but I’ll try my best to keep it on the straight and narrow.
I’ve been watching Ken Burne’s film “The Vietnam War” and it’s been a riveting experience. I remember those days vividly and my own fear of being drafted and my response to that challenge.
What struck me most about the film were the missed opportunities, miscalculations, mis-interpretations, hubris and just plain chuckle-headedness of our leaders, encompassing 4 presidential administrations. Apart from the human tragedy, I think that was the main theme of the piece. It, sadly, reminds me of our government’s present day situation. The details may be different, the issues more contemporary, but the process remains – history un-learned.
The question must be – why does this continue to happen? To seek an answer we should examine our own day-to-day thinking – every single one of us.
In his 2007 book Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell examines how we understand the world around us and within us. The novel’s blurb says, “Blink is about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.
Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?”
Gladwell’s conclusion is that we exist on automatic. Indeed, many mental health professionals maintain that the brain wants to function on automatic – it’s less work among the mountain of data our brains must process every moment. Blink shows how this affects everything we do. Our reliance on clichés and the popular lexicon (“awesome”, “amazing”, etc.) are, in my view, more examples of automatic thinking. Reacting to situations in the same way over and over is also thinking without thinking.
Automatic thinking is a compelling explanation for the stagnation and wrong-headedness so epidemic and long-lasting in our polarized national discourse and listless leadership. Poll after poll suggests that we the people believe the information we see that agrees with our already-held beliefs. This automatic response cements our tribal divisions.
My goal as a person and a realtor is to process more realistically. I hear many automatic responses to the varied situations encountered in real estate. These “blinks”, from customers, vendors, lawyers and realtors, more often than not, have little relation to the reality of a given situation.
Like everyone else I have to fight decades of automatic processing and negative training to overcome the automatic habit. I don’t hold myself up as some exception to the rule. The only credit I give myself is that I have a hint of how jumbled I am.
When I pause after you ask me a real estate question it’s because I don’t want to give you some “canned” answer. My training and experience do count for something but your situations are always unique and my responses should not jam them into a stock response.
I won’t comment any further on our crippled national discourse. Sadly, productive discussion is impossible when opposing positions are in automatic cement. I think the best we can do is to try to overcome our own stagnant view of the world in whatever tiny sliver of it we inhabit.